Can we just talk about how fucking great the writing on this show is?
Okay, this one requires a little explaination.
At this point in the series, we’ve seen people shrug off injuries like they were nothing. Steven and the Gems (especially the Gems) tank a HECK load of hits. Just watch Pearl v Sugilite (Coach Steven), Pearlbot v Peribot (Back to the Barn), the Gems v the waterclones (Ocean Gem), Garnet v Jasper (Jailbreak), Stevonnie v Jasper (Crack the Whip), or any other fight scene you can think of.
Now, the Off Colors (+ Lars and Steven) v Robonoids isn’t even that impressive of a fight. It’s fucking tense, sure, but there’s mostly just a whole lotta hiding.
Until this moment.
Lars is terrified, but he gathers his courage and attacks one of the robonoids head-on. He leaps on top of it, clinging onto it for dear life as it tries to throw him off.
Then we get a bunch of this fuckery.
And HERE, in THIS exact moment, is where things go south.
But the thing is, we don’t realise it yet. We as viewers are so absorbed in cheering for Lars, we don’t even THINK about the consequences this could have for him.
Now, another thing about Steven Universe is that things explode. And when they do, they explode impressively and they explode beautifully.
(from Laser Light Cannon)
(from Super Watermelon Island)
(from Serious Steven)
So when comparing those shots to this shot of the Robonoid exploding…
…this explosion is extremely underwhelming.
Combined with the fact that we’ve never seen a character get seriously hurt in explosions before, we don’t see this as a threat. We are not worried in this moment because Lars just beat this fucker! We are relieved, we are happy, we are ready to start celebrating. Meaning that seeing this…
…over the sound of a flatline…
…is jarring as all hell, because it immediately tells us celebrating viewers that something is WRONG.
And Steven knows it.
The reaction of the Off Colors here immediately becomes dissonant and strange. After all, these gems don’t know about human deaths. Lars hasn’t poofed, so he’s fine…
no he’s not.
he is not fine.
And that’s the kicker.
Steven Universe has been running for four seasons, and NOBODY HAS EVER DIED ON SCREEN BEFORE NOW!
We aren’t expecting it! We have gotten so used to death not being a real threat in this show because surely the Crewniverse wouldn’t dare kill off a main character that we’ve stopped factoring it in as something that could happen.
Even the Off Colors are realizing it now. Even Paddy realizes it.
One of Steven’s best friends just died. For real. On screen. In a fight we would have written off as underwhelming if not for this moment.